A pair of sailors adrift off the South African coast were rescued after their catamaran was capsized in a collision with a whale.

A pair of sailors were rescued after spending nearly two days adrift off the South African coast when their catamaran Llama Lo was capsized by a collision with a whale.

French freighter CMA CGM Rossini returned the two survivors – 65-year-old Frenchman Jean Sitruk from Lyon and 19-year-old South African Kyle Castelyn from Cape Town – to land on Monday morning (19 October).

The pair recounted their harrowing tale to South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

The 52-foot Llama Lo catamaran was sailing on autopilot in rough seas off the Transkei coast between 10 and 12 knots when the dual-hulled boat struck a whale and began taking on water.

The craft listed and capsized within minutes of the strike at around 1800 on Saturday (17 October). Sitruk and Castelyn had time to send a Mayday distress call from their marine radio, grab a few supplies and board an inflatable rubber tender boat.

catamaran capsized

Picture: NSRI

The two sailors were quickly separated from the upturned vessel by strong winds and 15-foot swells and could not recover the boat’s other dinghy or life raft.

Pointing the inflatable into oncoming seas, they activated their emergency radio beacon (EPIRB) and began to row, some 50 nautical miles miles from the nearest land.

When the sailors saw ships in the distance using spotlights overnight, they sent up a flare, but it went unnoticed.

capsized catamaran

Picture NSRI.

In the early morning hours of Sunday ((18 October), the dinghy capsized twice, seeing most of the supplies sunk and Sitruk and Castelyn clinging to the upturned hull until the second capsizing flipped the craft upright.

After hours at sea, at last light on Sunday evening, one of the ships engaged in a search for the two sailors, cargo ship CMA CGM Rossini, located them and sounded three blasts on the ship’s horn.

Related links:

French yachtsman saves his cat in at sea rescue

Man dies while navigating canal lock